Written May 7, 2021
When you hear this word what surfaces for you?
Perhaps a seductive dance around a pole.
Perhaps a piece of wood with the layers of paint peeled away.
Perhaps a purse robbed out of the arms of a woman as she strolls along a busy street.
For me, no matter what rises to define the word, it contains elements of vulnerability. That exposure underneath, a violation of structure, and even previously held boundaries and protection. There is a nuance of safety removed allowing things to surface we might, or we might not want to admit. In the example of paint being removed from a piece of wood, the integrity of what exists beneath can no longer be hidden, it can no longer be unseen.
When intention inspires the decision, to strip, there is an acceptance in the unknown. A care is taken as you engage in the exploration of the underneath layers. Perhaps even hesitation is allowed when what is seen trends from that provocative perspective to overwhelm, enacting coping mechanisms, constructive or not. With intention, there is a safety in the illusion of control and certainty.
For those still holding images of a sensual dance around a pole, as shiny and fantasy like as it is, I’m going to ask you to place the desire, to remain there, in a container and enjoy that exploration at another time. I am going to invite you to continue from a philosophical place of who you are in your life.
This writing looks at being stripped when it doesn’t accompany intention.
There is no acceptance of what is unknown to prepare you.
It immediately pushes the overwhelm button.
These experiences often hold the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but the storm before the rainbow appears is fucking terrifying. And since we can only connect the dots looking backwards, seeing clearly the path we navigated, having faith there is any existing path forward, our decision creating a reality to sink or swim, is determined in the now and it often looks more like a desperation in the floundering.
If you are curious about this type of travel, I invite you to imagine a world where you were stripped of the identities you hold. Are you a parent? Are you a spouse? Are you a friend? Are you a daughter or son? Are you a person of service? Are you a business executive? Are you a neighbor? Are you a person living with a chronic illness? Are you a person who likes to exercise? Are you a person who doesn’t like to exercise? Are you an adventurer? Are you a teacher? Are you a student? Are you a runner? Are you a surfer? Are you a NASA engineer? Are you Elon Musk?
To the best of your ability, remove these layers with slowness. Feel who you are underneath. There is an inherent resistance that will surface. This is not an exercise in truth, unless you want it to be, it is an exercise in perception, the meaning you assign to what surfaces. Tolerating in anyway the idea you wouldn’t “be” a parent, once you hold this identity, is unimaginable. That might be as far as you get, the questioning.
As you explore this idea of being stripped of your identities, as many as you can tolerate, the discomfort of imagining, you might get curious why this exercise holds benefit. I invite you to hold compassion for that resistance and continue to travel for just a bit more.
There is opportunity in the exposure, a view once seen it is no longer hidden. Midlife is typical when this level of questioning becomes enticing, though there are outliers, like always. I might even go as far to say those acting with intention, remain in hiding. As humans, we are unable to create that level of discomfort for ourselves, we are protective. But is it possible the intention dissolves as the momentum toward becoming picks up at speeds we can no longer control. From my 48 year old experience, most just find more convincing ways to hide as speed picks up, they find accessories to keep intention in control. Then again, it is just my experience painting this picture.
What if…what if intention never shows up to the party. What if an injury took surfing out of your reality? What if one day a spouse of decades drove away never to return? What if a child lost life before you? What if you lost your job? What if your chronic illness was cured? What if you won the lottery? What if you went viral, in a good way or maybe a way you didn’t desire? Being stripped of identities you hold, when intention isn’t driving, exposes layers of who you are at a foundational and basic level, it’s you in the raw. Look there, it’s magical.
When the stripping brings positive emotions (those that feel good) resistance and struggle will present in layers, but discomfort isn’t present in the first few rounds. The shift in identity confirms your enough-ness to the degree you allow this to be determined by conditions, situations, and circumstance.
When the stripping brings negative emotions (those that don’t feel good) resistance and struggle are instantaneous, fight, flight, or freeze come in gifts bags of your choosing. The shift in identity illuminates wounds around your enough-ness to the degree you allow this to be determined by conditions, situations, and circumstance.
It feels amazing to be invited to the party of the lottery winner or cancer survivor.
It feels often intolerable to be invited to the gathering of one who lost their job or just received a terminal diagnosis.
This holds true as Self or as a loved one.
These layers, whether added or removed, are layers placed around you. In your life, you will progress doing both, adding and removing, at times with intention and at times you receive the gift without intention.
Either package discloses opportunity, though I personally have become fond of the view after the storm when it lacks intention. The trust established in that view doses the storm with sprinkles of tolerability but it is always a fucker.
All of my experiences contribute in some way to this writing, my invitation to you, my expression of a perspective, the metaphors shared, my vulnerability easter-egged behind a string of words.
Today this came to the surface, though one might argue it’s been simmering for 48 years or perhaps held intergenerationally eternally. Either way, welcome to the weekend!
IMAGE: I have two friends who fabulously hold an adult only costume party each year in August with a theme. The image accompanying this writing is from that party a few years ago. Every attendee looks forward to the reveal of the theme that accompanies the invitation. When I began contemplating this concept of being “stripped” of identities I thought of this party. Often attendees wear less clothing than typical but also because costumes allow a person to be void of identities they carry and if they want, enter into an alter ego so to speak. Each accepts and participates as they choose but the conversation, the drinks, the food and the dancing never disappoint!